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Look below to find our free MLB Picks for the five best games on today’s schedule!
San Francisco Giants @ Cincinnati Reds – 12.35PM ET
The San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds will wrap up their four game head to head series at the Great American Ball Park on Thursday afternoon.
As a result of their 4-0 victory on Wednesday, the Giants took a 3-0 lead over the Reds in their four game series in Cincinnati.
San Francisco only had a 1-0 lead at the top of the ninth before Buster Posey hit one deep into left field to clear the bases and give the Giants a 4-0 lead. Kevin Gausman took the win with the ball, striking out eight Reds batters and allowing just one run (zero earned) in six innings.
BUSTER POSEY CLEARS EM LOOK AT THESE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS pic.twitter.com/18POxV2kBi
— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) May 20, 2021
As for the Reds, Carson Fulmer allowed three earned runs on two hits in the ninth inning. However, Fulmer should not carry all of the blame as Cincinnati’s lineup only managed three hits for the night.
Johnny Cueto will make his sixth start for San Francisco this year. Cueto is having an effective season, posting a solid 3.62 ERA and 1.24 WHIP to go along with a 2-1 record in 27.1 innings of action. The right hander gave up two runs on eight hits against the Pirates in his last start and will be supported by the league’s fourth ranked pitching staff (3.25 team ERA).
Cincinnati will send the in-form Tyler Mahle to the mound for his ninth start of the year on Thursday. Mahle gave up just two runs on seven hits in seven innings against the Rockies in his last start. The young right-hander has a 2.93 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 43 innings pitched this year.
The Reds are undoubtedly the better offensive team in this matchup, as their 5.25 runs per game average ranks them third in the majors. Seeing as Tyler Mahle will give Cincinnati an advantage at the mound early in this match, we like the Reds to close out this series with a win at home.
Having already wrapped up the series victory on the road, San Francisco do not have much to play for on Thursday. And although Cincinnati’s pitching staff has a poor 4.81 team ERA (26th in the league), we like the Reds potent offense to put up a big score early against Cueto, while Mahle restricts the Giants lineup.
Washington Nationals @ Chicago Cubs – 2.20PM ET
The Cubs and Nationals will wrap up their four game set at Wrigley Field on Thursday. Washington are looking to tie the series at two games a piece, while Chicago are looking to claim a 3-1 series victory at home.
After Juan Soto’s solo homer at the top of the fifth, Washington had a 4-1 lead on Wednesday. However, Javier Baez made it a one run game at the bottom of the ninth with a homer of his own, before Washington’s Brad Hand closed out the game.
Joe Ross will be looking to bounce back from a rough outing on Thursday when he makes his eighth start of the year for the Nationals. Ross gave up eight runs in four innings against Arizona on Saturday, blowing his overall ERA for the season out to 5.80.
Similarly, Trevor Williams (6.27 ERA) will be looking to return to form when he makes his ninth start for the Cubs. Having given up three earned runs on four hits in his last start, Williams was dragged after just two innings. He has now given up 11 runs on 15 hits in his last 8.2 innings.
Offensively, Chicago have scored 5+ runs in four of their past five starts, while Washington has failed to score more than three runs in three of their past four outings.
Given that the Cubs are at home and have the better lineup, starting pitcher and pitching staff (3.23 team ERA), we like Chicago to claim a series victory on Thursday.
Houston Astros @ Oakland Athletics – 3.37PM ET
The top two teams in the AL West will wrap up their three game head to head series in Oakland on Thursday, when the Astros and A’s face off once again.
As a result of their 8-1 victory on Wednesday, the Astros tied their three game series against the A’s at 1-1 heading into game three on Thursday.
Jose Altuve set the tone for the day with a leadoff homer at the top of the first. However, Tuli Gurriel was the standout performer with the bat, scoring once from four hits and also picking up four RBIs.
Zack Greinke held the A’s to just four hits and one earned run in his eight innings with the ball, while also collecting eight strikeouts.
Cole Irvin is at 56 pitches through five innings. 42 have been strikes.
— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) May 15, 2021
Lucia Garcia will be taking the ball for Houston in the series decider. Garcia has a 1-3 record, 3.34 ERA, 1.114 WHIP and 40 strikeouts over 35 innings of work on the year, after allowing just one run on five hits over five innings in his last start.
Oakland’s Cole Irvin will take the mound for his ninth start of the season. Irvin 3-4 this year with a 4.02 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 39 strikeouts over 47.2 innings of work on the year. Having allowed one run on five hits in 6.2 during his last start, Irvin now boasts a 1-1 record, 2.18 ERA and 0.77 WHIP in his last three starts.
As the Astros bullpen let a 5-3 lead slip in Tuesday’s series opener, we can’t see Houston’s rotation performing well enough for them to win this matchup. Irvin has been rock solid in his last three starts and pitches well at home, while Oakland’s offense has clubbed 6+ runs in three of their past five starts.
Minnesota Twins @ Los Angeles Angels – 4.07PM ET
The Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels will kick off their three game series at Angel Stadium on Thursday afternoon. The match will also be the first game of a double header.
Having recently lost their series against Chicago, Minnesota will enter Thursday’s match with the worst record in baseball. With the series tied at 1-1 heading into Wednesday’s game, the White Sox beat the Twins in the decider 2-1, resulting in a 2-1 series victory for the travelling White Sox.
Matt Shoemaker allowed just two earned runs on five hits in six innings at the mound, however the Twins lineup only managed one run and two hits in the loss.
The Angels also dropped the deciding match of their three game series against the Indians on Wednesday, going down 2-3.
Lewis Thorpe will take the ball for Minnesota in the first of the two seven inning games. Thursday will be Thorpe’s sixth career MLB start, as the left hander currently boasts a 4.50 ERA through 10 innings of work this season.
The more experienced Alex Cobb will take the mound for the Angels in game one. Cobb has a 1-2 record, 5.48 ERA, 1.69 WHIP and 31 strikeouts from 21.1 innings of work this year. The right hander was solid in his last outing, having allowed zero runs on two hits in five innings.
Both Los Angeles (5.28) and Minnesota (4.91) are in the bottom four teams in the league when looking at team ERA.
Quite simply, the Twins are too inconsistent to pick in any matchup at the moment. When their offense is strong, the pitching often lets them down and vice versa. The Angels are at home, have a better/more consistent lineup and the more experienced pitcher in this matchup. Even without Mike Trout, Los Angeles should get on top of the inexperienced Lewis Thorpe, which will be the difference in this matchup.
Pittsburgh Pirates @ Atlanta Braves – 7.20PM ET
The Pirates and Braves will face off in Atlanta on Thursday night for the first matchup of their four game head to head series.
Although they lost the series 1-2, Atlanta concluded their three game set against the Mets with a 5-4 victory in their most recent outing on Wednesday.
With the scores tied 4-4, Ronald Acuna Jr. clubbed the walk-off homer at the bottom of the ninth to snap the Braves three game losing streak.
“IT’S OVER” 🗣
Ronald Acuña Jr. channels Vince Carter after this walk-off homer
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 20, 2021
As for the Pirates, they recently lost their third consecutive game by exactly three runs, having gone down to the Cardinals 5-8 in St Louis. Although Pittsburgh showed some fight on Wednesday, they couldn’t recover from an early 6-0 deficit. Trevor Cahill and Duane Underwood allowed six runs in the first two innings of the match, essentially putting the game out of reach.
Atlanta’s Drew Smyly takes the ball for his seventh start of the season in this contest. Smyly holds a 2-2 record with a 5.23 ERA, 1.355 WHIP and 26 strikeouts over 31 innings so far this year. However, in his last three starts Smyly is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 11 strikeouts over 16 innings of work.
Pittsburgh’s Will Crowe has not shared the same success recently, having allowed a 4.50 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 12 strikeouts over 16 innings of work in his last three starts.
As both Pittsburgh (4.35) and Atlanta (4.59) are bottom 10 teams in the league when looking at collective ERA, whomever out of Smyly and Crowe holds their nerve early in this match will likely win this encounter.
Although Crowe has been serviceable in his last three starts, Smyly’s experience and solid recent form will give the Braves an advantage at the mound. As well as that, the Braves offense have scored the 10th most runs in baseball, while the Pirates have scored three runs or fewer in five of their past eight games.
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*Odds and spreads correct at time of publication, courtesy of FanDuel.